Estimating the value of Earth

Can you put nature up on a scale to measure it’s value in money?

Drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt,

Drawing of a scale with nature, us and Earth on one side and money on the other
How money as a measure of everything, ends up defining everything

There is a whole school in nature conservation economics and business philosophy that try as hard as it can to set up exchange rates between money and the value of life, nature, trails and landscapes, to bring the environment into the economic, resource spreadsheet logic that rules this world more and more. But to me it seems like there is a number of reasons this is a flawed idea

We haven’t got a clue about what we try to measure

For a start we humans still have very limited idea about what we and/or this planet is, about how ecological systems work, about how our planet is connected to the rest of the universe , or what that universe is, or how it work or what our function in it is,  and looking at nature we still have less than a clue about what things like biodiversity, plate tectonics, oceans and life are, or how the energies, dynamics and flows that forms them, works. So we simple haven’t got a clue about most of the things we try to measure and translate into money.

Money is not a real thing

Second money is not a real thing, you can put on a scale. Money used to be numbers hammered onto small pieces of metal, but today that is a long time ago. Now money is just bits of digital flickering numbers, based on a loose cultural, ever changing constructed idea, that nobody really understands anyway.

There is no other side of the scale

Third – We humans are living, breathing, feeling, eating and walking from birth to death as an integrated part of the interconnected life on this planet, and our ever-changing cultures, stories and social structures and ideas – including money… is just part of our cultural collective storytelling. And those stories and structures can change as fast as our global imagination can transform them and make new ones up. There is no “economical, rational other side” of things, separated from our cultural and natural reality. So there is no “other side” of the scale

Money as a measure of everything, ends up defining everything

The idea that we can measure life and reality in money comes from our limited ability to grasp reality, instead, using fuel and resource metaphors, we think we can calculate how much money is needed for a planet, a human being or happiness.

Today we have an obsession with measuring everything in money, including love, quality of life, value of biodiversity, education, and importance of the oceans or the distance to the Sun.

The problem is that the more we fall for the illusion that  we can set up “exchange rates” between money and the rest of reality … The more we construct a new reality, based on money as the ruling reality… the more we cling to this flawed model, and try to translate everything into cold cash,  the more we drift further and further away from understanding life or anything else, as anything but money.


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